by Alma R. H. Reyes
Ni usagi wo ou mono wa
ichi usagi wo mo ezu.
(One who chases after two hares
won't catch even one.)
My Bunny Valentine
Shin-nen Akemashite Omedetou Gozaimasu!
Oo-la-la…it seemed just months ago when I talked about “natural catastrophes and massacres” that marked the previous year of 2009, and still, we have gone through natural catastrophes and massacres in 2010—what else could 2011 bring? Maybe as the earth gradually ages, and as human lifestyle succumbs inevitably to the power of technology, we can never escape natural disasters, hideous crimes, continuous poverty, or insignificant wars, but one value that the rescue of Chilean miners last October taught us was that there is still room for hope, will and human compassion among us.
No one knows about hope and trust more than the rabbit. Yes, 2011 will be leaping with trustworthy rabbits that are also known for being conscientious, articulate, talented, virtuous and non-confrontational. They also love artistic adventures, and are open to self-expression. So, if you are born in the year 1915, 1927, 1939, 1951, 1963, 1975, 1987 or 1999, expect a fruitful year of high expectations!
Of course, in our local scene, nengajo New Year cards came in popular themes of Miffy, My Melody and Peter Rabbit (or Playboy Bunny?). In fact, the “usagi” (rabbit) is a very auspicious animal in Japanese culture. The “tsuki usagi” or moon rabbit is based on a Chinese folklore, adapted in Japan, about a rabbit who lives in the moon, and is seen pounding rice cakes. The Buddhist tale relates that a monkey, otter, jackal, and a rabbit were called to offer charity on the day of a full moon. An old man came begging for food, and the monkey offered him fruits from the trees. The otter offered fish, and the jackal offered a lizard and a bowl of milk-curd that he stole. The rabbit, however, offered his own body and threw himself into the fire, but was not burned. The old man was so moved by the rabbit’s gesture he drew him on the moon for the whole world to see. And, this is why it is often said that the moon appears with a dark shadow on it, in a likened feature of a rabbit.
Well, isn’t that a “cute” story? Do expect a lot of cutey bunnies this year coming out in bag and pouch motifs, handkerchiefs, socks, decorations on plates, and “e-moji” characters on your cell phones on Valentine’s Day!
Shippo. Speaking of the New Year and new trends, one of them is the “shippo” (tail) pom-pom hanging from girls’ bags, cell phones, and pockets of jeans or jackets. These are large, furry balls or long fox or rabbit’s tails in various colors, swaying and bouncing as the girls walk—an addition to the array of “kawaii” paraphernalia.
Yama-gyaru. We may all be tired and sick of the “gyaru” gals hanging around in Harajuku, Shibuya, Shinjuku, Akihabara and elsewhere, but did you know that there are also yama-gyaru? This is a fashion trend among girls who like to dress up in mountain hiking attire. They go hiking in groups, covering themselves in kawaii knitted high socks, kawaii colorful knit and nylon pullovers, kawaii mountain jackets, kawaii hats and kawaii hiking shoes—and, you know what? Most of them don’t even like hiking! Ughh…haven’t we had enough of “kawaii?”
K-pop. “Ahn-Nyeong Hah-Seh-Yo!” These days I get dizzy watching pop idols on TV, singing in groups of 4, 5, 7, 9…it seems like the numbers go bigger by the season—and, they all sound alike, dress alike, look alike, you can hardly distinguish them as Japanese or Korean. K-pop suddenly takes a giant leap into the Japanese pop world, and for Japanese, the Koreans even sound more “kawaii” with their broken Japanese. Big Bang, Girls Generation, Kara, 4Minute…kilala niyo ba yan?
Yasai Suitsu. Vegetable pastries? Okay, let’s talk food. Looks like there is a hip in going all the way for a clean, healthy diet by shying away from jam, chocolates and other sweety sweets that fill your small slice of cake. It started with the matcha green tea flavored pastries, but that is all passé. Chic patisseries now offer not fruits, but veggies in their sweets: concoctions of carrot, asparagus, beans, spinach, radish, green peas, potato, and who knows what else. I’ve had pastries with “takana” (leafy vegetable often served pickled) and they were actually yummy!
Flavored Kit-Kat. I swear I wouldn’t be able to skip this one if I didn’t realize that so many Filipinos back home are so crazy about flavored Kit-Kit candies from Japan. Who would know? People like us who live here only notice the local o-sembe and local Meiji or Morinaga; but, apparently, Kit-Kat comes in so many varieties of green tea, hoji-cha, strawberry, wasabi, cheesecake, brown sugar kinako, bubblegum, Cola, lemon squash, cappuccino, Calpis flavors and more!
J-slang. Lastly, if you want to keep up with what the young hips are saying about you, you may want to learn a few Japanese slang terms, like mukatsuku (pissed off); omoroi (short for omoshiroi or interesting); or its more trendy version, ukeru (funny, great); uzai (short for urusai or literally to shut up); zakoi (tacky, weakling); kishoi (gross or nasty); (word) + wazu (from the English “was” meaning something you already did), like shopping-wazu (went shopping), ofuro-wazu (had a bath), tabeta-wazu (just ate); (word) + wiru (from the English “will” meaning something you will do), like denwa-wiru (will call), kaisha-wiru (go to office); word + nao (from the English “now” to mean what you are doing now), like Osaka-nao (in Osaka now), dekakeru-nao (going out now); (word) + poyo (to emphasize a situation) like age-poyo (high tension), sage-poyo (low tension), or affixing “cho” before any word to inject a superlative degree—like, cho-osoi (so late), cho-baka (so stupid), cho-kawaii (so cute) or cho-nagai (so long), like this article!
Have a sunny bunny year!